Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales is one of the most visited attractions in the National Park. And for good reason, it’s stunning, unique and offers sweeping views over the North Yorkshire countryside.
As well as being popular with climbers, many visitors come to the cove on foot to take in the natural beauty and striking landscape. And with the homely pubs and beautiful hotels, there are plenty of places to rest up after your walk.
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know before visiting. Including where to park at Malham Cove (for free!), walks, the best hotels & pubs, other nearby attractions and how to get here by yourself or on public transport.
Where is Malham Cove?
It’s 1 mile north of the village of Malham in the southern part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The nearest towns are Grassington, Settle and Skipton.
What is Special about Malham Cove?
The cove is a huge limestone formation created around 12,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. Measuring 80 metres in height and 300 metres across, the curved cove is an absolute giant of nature and well worth a visit.
From the bottom, the cove looks like a pretty solid limestone rock wall. But, at the top is a vast limestone pavement, made up of many individual blocks that resemble a giant puzzle.
This is also what gives it the less commonly used name of Malham Rocks.
The rain continues to erode the Malham Cove limestone pavement and the gaps between the rocks increase slowly over time. These gaps – called grykes – require constant concentration as you walk across the top to not fall down.
Connecting the top and bottom are 400 steps that are part of the Pennine Way.
Although the walk up is slightly challenging, it only takes about 10 minutes. This means you can easily enjoy views from above and below during your visit.
And, trust me, it’s well worth climbing up the Malham Cove steps for the panoramic views and unique landscape.
The Elusive Malham Cove Waterfall
Once upon a time, the cove used to be a waterfall with the water flowing along Malham Beck from Malham Moor. Unfortunately, the Malham Cove waterfall doesn’t exist anymore as the stream heads underground and now emerges from the base of the rockface.
Exceptionally heavy rain can create a temporary waterfall, although this has only happened twice in the last 200 years – most recently in December 2015!
A huge cave network exists behind the cove although only 1 mile has been mapped by cavers and cave divers. This largely explains why a waterfall here is so rare as the cave holds huge volumes of water and transports it far underground.
Getting to Malham
The easiest way to get to Malham is by car, involving a scenic drive through the national park. Malham Cove parking is available around one mile from the huge rock face.
In terms of public transport, Malham doesn’t have a train station so the only way to get there is by bus. However, you can take the train as far as Skipton and then get the bus to Malham.
Train to Malham
The nearest train station is Settle, but there’s no onward public transport links from here.
Instead, travel by train to Skipton from Leeds, Carlisle, Bradford Forster Square and Morecambe with Northern Rail. Additionally, LNER operates direct trains from London Kings Cross to Skipton via Leeds once a day.
From Skipton, you can get the bus to Malham (see below).
Bus to Malham
The 210 bus runs from Skipton Train Station to Malham on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only. On Tuesday and Thursday, this bus service runs as the number 211.
Unfortunately, there’s no service over weekends.
The first bus arrives in Malham at 10.25 am and the last one leaves Malham at 1.35 pm – giving you 3 hours. Although, there are only two services per operating day in each direction.
Day Trip to Malham
If you’re travelling by public transport, it’s best to stay in Leeds the night before. This is because you’ll need to be on the first bus to Malham from Skipton Station (9.45 am) to see it and get the last bus back to the station.
It is possible from Manchester and York but this would require a very early start and quite a long train journey (much longer than the time you’ll spend there).
So if you’re coming from anywhere else, driving is your best option.
- From Leeds/York. Come off the A65 just before Gargrave and follow the country roads up through Airton and Kirkby Malham following signs for Malham.
- From Manchester. Take the M56 north and then the M65 north-east. Come off the motorway at Nelson (J13) and then head north on Gisburn Road (A682). Pass through Hellifield and join the country roads entering the national park through Otterburn, Airton and Kirkby Malham.
- From Windermere (Lake District). Take the A65 and B6840 to Settle, driving through the centre of the town. Turn left at the bright-white Settle Social Club onto Chapel Street, follow the road around onto Victoria Street and then follow the road around to the left (Albert Hill and High Hill Lane). Follow signs for Kirkby Malham and Malham.
Parking in Malham
Parking for Malham Cove Yorkshire is often the biggest headache for visitors. Especially during the summer months or on sunny weekends, finding a space can be difficult.
Parking spaces fill up quickly here. So it’s best to arrive as early as you can.
Where do you park for Malham Cove?
There’s no parking at Malham Cove. Instead, you’ll need to park in the village of Malham and make your way on foot to the cove.
Parking is available at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Car Park behind the National Park Centre in Malham. When that’s full there’s overflow parking in Malham in the field opposite for the same cost.
The postcode for this Malham Cove Car Park is BD23 4DA. Or you can see its Google Maps pin here.
Alternatively, Watersinks Car Park is conveniently located between Malham Tarn and Cove (but not in Malham village).
Do you have to pay to park at Malham Cove?
Unfortunately, there’s no free public parking in Malham.
Charges for the Malham Cove Car Park at the visitor centre (which has a couple of electric vehicle charging points) are:
- £3.50 for 2 hours (extra hour free for Blue Badge holders)
- £5.50 for all-day parking
- Additional charges for 24-hour, 48-hour and 1-week parking.
- No overnight camping allowed.
Payment is by card or cash (coins only) at the machines.
Another option is Watersinks Car Park, which is free and conveniently located between Malham Tarn and Cove. If you park here there’s easy on-foot access to the cove from the north.
How far is Malham Cove from the Car Park?
It’s 1 mile from the National Park Centre in Malham (and other Malham parking options), roughly a 20-minute walk. Alternatively, it’s 1.4 miles from Watersinks Car Park to the top of the cove – a 30-minute, downhill walk.
Reaching the Top of Malham Cove
The enormousness of this giant rock is best enjoyed from below. You can stand at the very bottom and look up at 80 metres of rockface above you!
But, you simply have to take in the views from above and marvel at the unique limestone pavement. And to reach this, you’ll need to climb 400 steps to the top – you’ll find them easily on the western side of the cove (left side as you look at it from below).
It’s a bit of a slog, but the steps aren’t steep. And when you’re looking out over the green fields of the Yorkshire Dales, it’ll all be worth it.
And you might recognise the top of Malham Cove. It’s a filming location for one scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with Harry and Hermione camping there (which isn’t actually allowed!).
> > > Looking for more Harry Potter filming locations to visit? Then the Glenfinnan Viaduct is right up your street. You’ll probably remember it best from when Ron and Harry flew a car over it!
Planning Your Visit
One thing to know is that the cove is a popular nesting spot for peregrine falcons. And on rare occasions, this means the bottom of the cove is closed to the public to protect the birds.
But don’t worry, when this happens you’ll still be able to walk up to the top of the rockface. And given its size, you’ll still see it – just from slightly further away.
Nothing! It’s free to visit Malham Rocks. Janet’s Foss and Gordale Scar are both completely free too.
No. The nearest public toilets are 1 mile away in Malham village.
Other Nearby Attractions
Janet’s Foss is a popular nearby waterfall located near the village of Malham. Tucked away in the trees, the waterfall attracts visitors all year round. And, in the summer, you can certainly expect to see people brave the chilly water for a swim in the pools.
Gordale Scar is another stunning landmark not far from the cove and village. Take a walk into the narrow gorge where you’ll find a tall waterfall pouring over the rockface. During dry weather spells, it’s possible to climb up next to the waterfall to explore the gorge further.
Malham Tarn is a unique lake to the north of the village and cove. Its alkaline waters are home to all sorts of flora and fauna, making it an important conservation site. This does mean you can’t swim here but you can visit the Malham Tarn Estate for great countryside views.
Malham Cove Walks
- SIMPLEST & EASIEST: It’s an easy and flat walk from Malham Car Park options to the cove. The route is 1 mile each way along a well-maintained path, part of the Pennine Way. If you want to see the top, you’ll need to climb the 400 uneven steps on the left-hand side (as you look at the cove).
- WITH JANET’S FOSS & GORDALE SCAR: From Malham, walk to the cove, climb to the top and follow the path southeast along the top to Gordale Scar. Then come back on yourself, visit Janet’s Foss and then head back to Malham via Gordale Lane.
- CIRCULAR ROUTE FROM WATERSINKS: For a longer walk to the three attractions and with free parking at Watersinks Car Park, there’s a 7.3-mile circular route taking around 4 hours. You’ll find the route map, directions and more in this detailed guide to this Malham circular walk.
Take your pick from the two pubs in Malham: The Lister Arms and The Buck Inn. Both serve food throughout the week.
Hotels, Holiday Homes and campsites in Malham
Despite being a small village in a rural part of the national park, Malham has a lot of accommodation options. That said, the village doesn’t have any shops so make sure you bring your own necessities and food, snacks, drinks etc or be prepared to eat out every meal.
- Hotels. There’s a few Malham Cove hotel options, mostly those associated with a pub or restaurant. For example, both The Buck Malham and The Lister Arms have a range of double and twin rooms sleeping up to 2 adults. And Beck Hall has rooms for up to 2 adults and 1 child, as well as a restaurant, bar and terrace.
- Hostel. The YHA Malham Hostel has a variety of dorms, private rooms and pods. Children can stay in private rooms when accompanied, with dorms sleeping up to 6 people.
- Holiday homes. The village has a few options such as The Hayloft at Tennant Barn (sleeps 2), Tennant Cottage (sleeps 4 in 2 double bedrooms) and Town Head Farm (sleeps 8 people in 2 double rooms and 2 twin rooms).
- Campsites. Since you can’t camp on this beauty spot, you’ll need to stay in or near Malham. Gordale Scar Campsite is a little way out of the village but is next to Gordale Scar and Janet’s Foss. In Malham, there’s Riverside Campsite Malham, Malham Glamping Pods and Miresfield Farm.
Is Malham Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! There’s a reason Malham attracts so many visitors and that’s its stunning natural attractions, beautiful walking trails and quintessentially British pubs. Whether you stay for a few hours or a couple of days, you’ll be sure to love it.
If you have any questions or want any more information drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!
Prices and offerings mentioned are correct as of January 2024 but are subject to change in future.
More Yorkshire Walks…
BUCKDEN PIKE: Circular 5.5-Mile Route in the Yorkshire Dales
GRIMWITH RESERVOIR: Circular Walk Route
HEBDEN BRIDGE: Withens Clough Reservoir (Walks, Parking + More Info)
ILKLEY MOOR: 4 Beautiful Circular Routes
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